Freescale CTO on R&D Strategies

23 Jun 2010 Sandeep Mehta

NE Asia Tech-On has interviewed Freescale CTO on R&D Strategies.  The interview does focus quite a bit on the semiconductor industry, but there are some useful hints for R&D managers everywhere.

First – a clearly defined strategy is quite useful do build focus and drive efficiency (even though it is not done very effectively in many organizations):

Before the Lehman Shock, we detected a sign of business recession. So, we decided to retreat from the business for mobile phones and announced it in October 2008. At the same time, we decided to focus on four areas, namely, automobiles, networking, consumer and industrial products.

Among them, we will cover almost everything in the fields of automobiles and networking, which we consider are our core businesses. In the fields of consumer and industrial products, we will cover part of them such as smartbook PCs and electronic book readers in the field of consumer products and smart meters, smart grids and home-use mobile medical devices in the field of industrial products.

It is also important to define what will be done in-house and what will be sourced from the outside.  Many organizations run into problems with open innovation when there is a conflict between what is being done internally and what is sourced:

We did basic researches when we were a part of Motorola. But, currently, we do not do basic researches in our company. We tie up with colleges and consortiums for them. For semiconductor makers, the day of technological development for technologies ended long ago. 

There is also a need for tighter communications between R&D and marketing, and FreeScale clearly recognizes it

What is important now is to solve customers’ problems. Therefore, the ideas of the R&D division are summarized as PowerPoint files. The sales stuff and marketing people bring them to our customers and ask their opinions. If the customers do not like the ideas, they will be dumped

However, I am not sure if PowerPoint files are the best approach to communicate R&D intent to customers for many organizations.  Who will be developing these documents?  How does one maintain version control?  How does one bring feedback from the customers back and incorporate the into R&D – through PPT?

Finally, one more hint about being responsive to customer needs vs. being submissive to customer demands:

We cannot make products that have an impact on business just by using the ideas of the R&D people. We are doing research and development by considering customers’ opinions and market needs as well as taking advantage of our technologies. I said that we tie up with colleges and consortiums. But, in addition to that, we are collaborating with the industry leaders and our partners to solve our customers’ problems. 

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